PARIS (Jun. 15)
Israel’s Health Minister Victor Shemtov met here today with French Premier Jacques Chirac for 30 minutes to review the Middle East situation. The meeting, which took place at the Premier’s official residence. Hotel Matignon, was attended by French Health Minister Mrs. Simone Veil and the Israeli Ambassador to France, Mordechai Gazit.
Shemtov, who arrived here yesterday for an official three-day visit as the guest of Mrs. Veil is due to visit French health installations in Paris and Nice and confer with French health experts. Although his meeting with the French Premier was described as a courtesy call, the two men discussed the overall situation in the Middle East and Israel’s peace options. Shemtov told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he found the French Premier well informed on the various aspects of the situation. After the meeting, Shemtov hosted a luncheon tendered in honor of Mrs. Veil.
SIGNIFICANCE ATTACHED TO MEETINGS
Shemtov’s official visit to France, in return for Mrs. Veil’s visit to Israel last summer, indicates an improvement in the Franco-Israeli climate. No French Minister had ever visited Israel before Foreign Minister Jean Sauvagnargues went there in the autumn of 1974. French sources also stress that it is highly unusual for the French President to personally receive foreign ambassadors posted in Paris and therefore the audience President Valery Giscard d’Estaing granted Israeli envoy Gazit last week should be viewed as an overall French desire to strengthen Franco-Israeli ties. At both Giscard’s meeting with Gazit and Chirac’s meeting with Shemtov, the position of the two countries remained widely divergent on most subjects. But French and Israeli circles welcome the continuation of an open and cordial dialogue between Paris and Jerusalem.
ASSAD DUE IN PARIS
Meanwhile, President Hafez Assad of Syria is due here Thursday for a three-day official visit at the invitation of President d’Estaing. The two leaders are expected to discuss the Lebanese situation and overall developments in the Middle East as well as Franco-Syrian economic ties. French sources believe Syria is not presently interested in buying French military hardware since it obtains Soviet weaponry at amazingly low prices. Assad, who leaves Paris Saturday, will stop over at Belgrade and Bucharest for meetings with Marshal Tito of Yugoslavia and President Nicolai Ceaucescu of Rumania.